Ten Ways to Encourage Children to Eat More Fruits & Vegetables
1. Avoid labeling a child a “picky eater.” Labeling a child can lower expectations and prevent you from encouraging the child to try new foods. Similarly, a child who hears he is a picky eater may assume he can’t be anything other than a picky eater.
2. Use food bridges. Expand a child’s palate by building from what they already like. Go from carrots to sweet potato. Or from mashed potatoes to mashed cauliflower.
3. Be a role model. If you want children to eat more fruit and vegetables, make sure you eat a wide variety of them. Eat meals with children and let them see you eating – and enjoying – fruits and vegetables.
4. Maximize meal times. Serve veggies at the start of the meal, when children are hungriest. Offer up a dip and raw veggies while they are waiting for lunch or dinner. Or put out the veggies before the other food.
5. Involve a child in what they eat. Take children with you to the grocery store or farmers market. Ask them to pick out the apples or select the cucumbers. Take them to the produce section and let them pick any fruit or vegetable to try.
6. Make food fun. Give children a mix of cut up raw veggies and let them make pictures or faces on their plate. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes from watermelon slices or use Kotobuki vegetable cutters to cut out stars and hearts with cucumbers and peppers.
7. Shut down the restaurant. Make and serve one meal for everyone, with vegetable and fruit options. Children can eat as much as they want of whatever is on the table, but don’t make other food. When you want to try something new, make sure there is at least one “staple” the children will eat for dinner on the table, like rice.
8. Snack smart. Commit to one small morning and afternoon snack a day and offer whole fruits and veggies. Minimize the mindless eating or eating out of boredom and make sure to snack at least a few hours before mealtime, so everyone comes to the table hungry.
9. Taste. Children, like adults, eat what tastes good. Instead of serving plain, steamed veggies, roast them with some olive oil and salt at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
10. Healthy eating, like learning to read, is a skill that takes time. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a few weeks (or months!) for children to adapt. Research says it can take upwards of 20 times for a child to like something new.